COVID Shutdown Prompts Lakeview Athletes to Find Jobs Instead

CORTLAND, Ohio — Sean Voorhies didn’t see some familiar faces running around the all-weather track this spring season.

That’s because a handful of Lakeview High School athletes decided working was a better use of their after-school time during the 2020 season when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of all athletic programs.

“They said, ‘Hey coach, I’m working now. I’m paying for car insurance. I kind of like having a little bit of change,’ ” says Voorhies, Lakeview head boys cross country and assistant track and field coach. “They said, ‘I’m not doing this in college, so what’s the point of coming back for a year or two when I could be working now and making some money?’ ”

Lakeview senior Rhys Russell is a tire and lube technician at Sandy’s Tire Sales and Service in Warren. He’s also a landscape laborer.

Russell was a distance runner from seventh to 11th grade and a pole vaulter for two seasons. He was working 46 hours a week between the two jobs, but it was trimmed to 20 to 30 hours during the school year.

With his junior year canceled in 2020, he thought it was a great time to get a job.

“When rumors of a modified season for cross country came out, I had decided working would be better for me,” Russell says. “When track season started, I had decided that with no interest in being a college athlete, it would be pointless to continue my athletics to the end of high school.

“Working in high school has helped me to build a good amount of job experience and started to help me create a job network.”

Hunter Picuri, another recent graduate, spent four years running for the track and cross country teams – saying it was one of his favorite sports.

He worked at Chick-Fil-A near the Eastwood Mall for the past two years, working about 25 hours a week.

Picuri took College Credit Plus classes with his advanced studies at Lakeview, so being hampered with temperature checks, social distancing and masks during track season didn’t appeal to him. He opted to concentrate on school and work.

“Working has dramatically helped me get ready for the real world,” he says. “It’s opened my eyes to how the world is going to work. It’s not just pencils and textbooks anymore. It’s taught me a lot of things you’d never learn in school. And I feel it’s put me ahead of the game when it comes to work.

“It’s a trend this year due to COVID. Lots of kids are fed up with all the restrictions and rules we had to deal with and are just going to go make money instead of dealing with that.”

Voorhies says other coaches he’s talked to around the Mahoning Valley have also experienced the same situation.

“I’ve been coaching 14 or 15 years and more and more of my athletes now have to have jobs,” he says. “ I don’t know if that’s a sign of the changing economic times around the area. But a lot of the kids now have to buy their own cars, and pay for their own insurance.

“I didn’t notice that as much when I started coaching in the early 2000s. A lot of kids are trying to balance practices and work schedules now. But I think COVID only exacerbated it.”

Pictured at top: Lakeview High School student athletes Rhys Russell and Hunter Picuri opted to keep working this spring after COVID shut down the 2020 season.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.